Wells Bayou's camp awaits a Preakness Stakes decision

Wells Bayou's camp awaits a Preakness Stakes decision
Photo: Hodges Photography / Amanda Hodges Weir

Wells Bayou returned to the work tab this week for the first time since winning the Louisiana Derby (G2) back on March 21 at Fair Grounds, covering a half-mile Monday morning in 49.80 seconds over a "good" Oaklawn Park track.

Under normal circumstances, Wells Bayou would make his next start in the Kentucky Derby, traditionally run the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs. The race, however, has been moved to Sept. 5 due to the COVID-19 crisis. A new date for the Preakness, the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown, has yet to be announced.

That uncertainly has the connections of Wells Bayou, including trainer Brad Cox, considering a start in the Grade 1, $750,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) now scheduled for May 2.

“We’d love to win the Arkansas Derby,” co-owner Lance Gasaway said after watching Wells Bayou train last weekend. “Everything now is all based on what they do with the Preakness. We have no idea. We just don’t know. And, we want him here. Trust me, we want to run here in Arkansas. We love it here. But, it’s like Brad always says: ‘You want to do what’s best for the horse.’ That’s what we’ve got to look at.”

Gasaway and his father Clint, both Arkansas natives, are majority owners of Wells Bayou, who secured a spot in the Kentucky Derby with a front-running 1 ½-length victory in the Louisiana Derby.

BSW Bloodstock's Liz Crow selected Wells Bayou for the Gasaways, then brokered a deal before the Louisiana Derby to bring in BSW clients Sol Kumin (Madaket Stables) and Marc Lore (Wonder Stables) as partners in the rapidly developing Triple Crown hopeful.

Crow said the Arkansas Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race originally scheduled to be run Saturday, is now in play.

“I think it’s on the table, for sure,” Crow said. “Everybody’s in agreement that it’s completely Brad’s decision. If he wants to run there, then we’ll run there. If he doesn’t, then we’ll wait.”

The problem, Crow said, is what to wait for.

“I think that’s Brad’s point, too,” Crow said. “We really don’t know what’s going to happen with Churchill. They haven’t made an announcement of when they’re going to open their meet. Do you sit and wait for something? What’s going to happen with the Preakness? You don’t know what’s going to happen with any of these races. It’s crazy.”

Wells Bayou had been based at Oaklawn before the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby, winning a first-level allowance race Jan. 26 in his two-turn debut and first start without blinkers. He then finished a game second in the Southwest Stakes (G3) Fon eb. 17. The 1 1/16-mile Southwest, Oaklawn’s second of four Kentucky Derby points races, marked the stakes debut for Wells Bayou, a son of champion Lookin At Lucky.

“I think Brad had always thought this horse had some talent,” Crow said. “I think from Day 1, he liked what he saw from him. Just saw an immature horse that needed to grow up, but kind of thought he had some talent. We weren’t surprised by his performance in the Southwest, but it was nice to see him step up to that class level and actually deliver that kind of performance.”

Purchased for $105,000 at the 2019 Ocala Breeders’ Sales March 2-year-old in training sale, Wells Bayou has a 3-1-0 record from five lifetime starts and earnings of $845,293.

Wells Bayou tops the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 104 points, including 100 for his Louisiana Derby victory. He also earned four points for his runner-up finish in the Southwest.

Like the Louisiana Derby, the Arkansas Derby offers 170 points (100-40-20-10) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.

2020 Arkansas Derby (G1)

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